Major League Baseball has postponed Tuesday’s Seattle Mariners-San Francisco Giants game due to poor air quality in Seattle due to fires in Washington and Oregon.
The brief two-game series will be moved to San Francisco as a result, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reported Wednesday.
Giants and Mariners will play at Oracle Park instead. No official word yet, but Giants are traveling later today, so assume the games are tomorrow or tomorrow and Thursday. Both teams are off Thursday.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 15, 2020
King County in Washington advised its residents to “stay inside as much as possible” to protect their health, but that didn’t stop the Oakland A’s from playing the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on Monday. However, it was decided another game couldn’t be played in Seattle on Tuesday.
‘I’ve never seen it this bad’
The bad air quality in Seattle was noticeable on Monday, not just to the lungs but the eyes. You could actually see the smoky air at T-Mobile Park, which made the entire field look hazy.
playing sports in a pandemic with no fans didn't feel apocalyptic enough, so might as well throw in some smoke from the wild fires burning down the west coast pic.twitter.com/KF3lXMmYAP— Joon Lee (@joonlee) September 14, 2020
what the centerfield camera shot normally looks like versus what it looks like today pic.twitter.com/WFNI7pE0O5— Joon Lee (@joonlee) September 14, 2020
It’s not a great sign when you can physically see the air you’re breathing into your lungs.
Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin told The Athletic that he’s “never seen it this bad before.” After Monday’s doubleheader in Seattle, he told reporters that his players had felt the effects of the bad air during the second game. He’d been under the impression that the Air Quality Index, a metric of how healthy the air is, had to be under 200 for them to play, but no one from the team spoke to him about postponing the game.
Melvin: "It was pretty smoky out there. And guys were starting to feel it in the second game some. I think the numbers were pretty high." #Athletics— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) September 15, 2020
Melvin said topic of whether to play amid air quality conditions was not brought up to the A's: "No one said a word. I heard 200 was the cutoff level to start and my understanding is it was way over that, both games."— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) September 15, 2020
The air quality in Seattle was over that mark for most of the day.
MLB does not have a set Air Quality Index threshold where teams aren't allowed to play. They ask teams consult with local health departments.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) September 14, 2020
Over 200 is considered very unhealthy pic.twitter.com/m1Xyq9ebSN
A’s pitcher Jesus Luzardo was less than happy about having to play in air like that, describing what the experience had been like for him.
Luzardo on the poor air quality in Seattle: "I'm a healthy 22-year-old. I shouldn't be gasping for air or missing oxygen. I'll leave it at that."— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) September 14, 2020
Could MLB consider an official air quality policy?
Teams are expected to follow their local guidelines when it comes to air quality, but after Monday’s smoke-filled doubleheader MLB is reportedly considering implementing a league-wide air quality policy.
I’m hearing MLB is considering a league-wide AQI policy. It’s in the early stages so far, but they’re looking into it. Right now, MLB/teams rely on local officials to determine if it’s OK to play.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 15, 2020
Based on yesterday’s DH at Seattle, that approach seems less than ideal.
That would absolutely be worth considering, since MLB athletes are expected to be at the top of their game. The Athletic spoke to Dr. Anthony Gerber, director of pulmonary research at National Jewish Health and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, about the effects of unhealthy air quality on MLB’s elite athletes. Gerber compared them to distance runners, noting that if their health and recovery is adversely affected by even just one percent, that could impact their performance in a major way.
“If you look at like a world-class runner, the difference between a 2:10 marathon and a 2:15 marathon, that’s just 2 percent. And you’re not going to win the big ones at 2:15,” Gerber told The Athletic. “One or two percent at that very high level, it does make a real difference. It’s a little bit speculative because we don’t do population studies on the 1 percent. We do population epidemiology studies on everyone. A lot of the general recommendations are geared around whether the rest of us will tolerate a little change in performance because it doesn’t matter. But if you’re at the very top, it really does matter.
“On a day like they had in Oakland,” Gerber said, “if I were a professional athlete, I’d say, ‘Are you kidding me? You want me to be out there potentially risking my craft?'”